Wed, May

The City Ponders Neighborhood Council Reform – And, Subdivision Boundary Adjustments Still Suck


EASTSIDER-A few months ago, I wrote an article calling for the termination of Grayce Liu and her merry band, bringing back the first GM, Greg Nelson, and starting over with DONE.

You will be shocked that this did not happen, but we now know what Councilmember David Ryu’s vision of DONE Reform looks like. 

Thanks to the folks over at DONEWatch, we now know what the Health, Education, and Neighborhood Council Committee tentatively thinks should be done to DONE. Members of the Committee are Ryu(Chair), Cedillo, and Wesson, and their Motion on Neighborhood Council Reform can be found here

Too bad they didn’t touch the toxic Subdivision Boundary Policy (Ordinance No. 184526), which you can find here 

The Motion -The DONE 60-Day Report Back Part 

The Motion falls into distinct parts. First, there is a series of 6 Recommendations squarely aimed at Grayce Liu, instructing her to report back within 60 days on: 

(1)  Seeing how to amend the Charter to rename DONE to ‘Neighborhood Councils Department, BONC to ‘Neighborhood Councils Commission’, and eliminating the horsepuckey name of “Empower LA”; 

(2)  Redefining of “Community Impact Stakeholder” to something specific; 

(3) Charter amendment to clarify that all NC Board members are to be elected (eliminate ‘selection’ process); 

(4)  Citywide overhaul of all NC Bylaws, overseen by BONC, to “increase equity”; 

(5) Recommendations to provide a uniform minimum voting age and age to be on a NC Board; 

(6) Recommendations to develop/implement standardized Planning/Land Use Training for all officers of NC Planning and Land Use Committees. 

The Motion - City Clerk Instructions 

(1)  Requires clarifications so than a NC may roll-over up to $10,000/yr. of unspent funds; 

(2)  Steps to eliminate the cumbersome (15) page Ordinance regarding NC’s ability to accept in-kind or monetary donations; 

(3) Report back on the dollar implications of holding all NC elections on the same day, allowing for    a uniform advertising and outreach campaign. 

The Motion - DONE and All City Departments 

(1)  Set up a process for Neighborhood Councils to access shared space in City Facilities. (Note -Thank you Mr. Fuentes); 

(2) Generate a compendium of Best Practices generated from the NC’s, and share them periodically with all NC’s, including “how-to” Guides; 

(3) Instruct all City Departments to establish/train a single point of contact for NC’s, and conversely coordinate with each NC to have a single point of contact for the Departments. 

And a Feedback Loop 

Councilmember Ryu has also sent out a letter dated May 26, 2018 to the Neighborhood Councils, requesting feedback on these proposals. You can find the link to this letter here.   

They are asking that feedback be provided by either a CIS Statement (preferred), or an email to the Committee staff person, Eric Villanueva ([email protected]). There will be approximately 90 days minimum provided for this process. I suspect that the hope is that there will be CIS statements from NC’s in each of the 15 Council Districts to demonstrate to the Councilmembers that their Neighborhood Councils are actively taking these efforts seriously. 

As when Ryu sent out his Survey request, I urge everyone who can to participate in this process. It will be the only written record for Neighborhood Council/stakeholder input. Don’t be shy! 

Not Included - Race, Redistricting, and Subdivision Elections - Skid Row 

Although it does not directly bear on Ryu’s Motion, I have to mention a major issue that is deliberately notaddressed by the Committee: Boundary Adjustments. 

At the same time the Council Committee considers changes to the NC System, the Council and DONE continue to divide and pit stakeholders against each other using a totally inappropriate and Council-controlled procedure called Neighborhood Council Subdivision. 

In the case of the Skid Row NC proposal, the motives were clear -- Jose “God’s Gift to the Eastside” Huizar needed to ensure that the developers and business leaders who own him could stop Skid Row from getting its own Council which could help it halt the development steamroller that wants Skid Row (sans inhabitants) for their (the developers) own purposes. 

I have written about this before, in an article about “How LA’s Skid Row Got Screwed…”  It wasn’t pretty. Online voting was pushed through by DONE at the request of the Councilman himself (less than two weeks before their subdivision election). This was after a barrage of appeals from not only the downtown developers, but also by ex-City attorney Rocky Delgadillo, who was flanked by even more high-priced lobbyists including heavyweight Ann D’Amato. 

So how do you describe the people who live in Skid Row? Impoverished? Yup. Minorities? I would assume largely. Vulnerable? Absolutely. Perfect cannon fodder for Huizar and his BID buddies. Well, the good news is that Skid Row isn’t lying down for the steamroller. Recently Skid Row Activist Katherine McNenny filed in Superior Court against the Little Tokyo Business Assn to obtain the public documents that could prove the whole “election” was a dirty fix. The Case Number is BS 173741 for those who care. Stay tuned on this one, and good for Katherine. 

Not Included - Race, Redistricting, and Subdivision Elections - Little Bangladesh 

With Skid Row as a backdrop, there was another recently held Subdivision election over in Koreatown, where there was a petition to carve out a Little Bangladesh NC. Just because DONE made them rename their proposed NC as the “Wilshire Center - Little Bangladesh NC” doesn’t alter the racial implications of this cheap move. I say cheap move because the LA City Council’s racial politics have already impacted the Korean community plenty. 

Consider. Most people have forgotten that there was an ugly deal back in 2012 when the City Council did redistricting. That’s right, as reported in our very own CityWatchback in 2017, 

“Five years ago when the City of Los Angeles Redistricting was finalized, residents of Koreatown launched a lawsuit, Lee v. City Of Los Angeles (15-55478). It challenged the redrawing of district boundaries with the primary intent of increasing the African American vote within Council District 10.” 

With that backdrop, the very idea of entertaining a new carve-out along ethnic lines is, at best, disingenuous. Or worse. Yet here we are, with the Council promoting discord yet again for no discernible reason. 

And to make matters worse, Grayce “Garcetti” Liu, the head of DONE, writes in her latest missive to the Neighborhood Councils: 

We had an incredible turnout for the Wilshire Center-Koreatown Neighborhood Council subdivision election on Tuesday. City Clerk sent out 24,605 vote-by-mail ballots, of which 14,737 were sent back. Nearly 6,000 people came out to the 2 polling locations, which was covered by all of the local media. When polls closed at 8 pm, we still had nearly 1,000 voters at each location who waited to cast their vote. It was amazing to see people of all ages patiently waiting 4-5 hours to cast their vote in this election. 

The unofficial election result is 18,844 against to 282 for the subdivision. We anticipate finalizing the results next week. HUGE thanks to the City Clerk, the Wilshire Center Little Bangladesh Formation Committee, the WCKNC board and stakeholders as well as to our staff who supported the subdivision election! While a new Neighborhood Council was not created this time around, a lot more people became aware of the Neighborhood Council system during the process. We look forward to every Neighborhood Council turning out this many voters in the future!”  

Clearly, reality is not a part of Grayce Liu’s Pollyanna Department of Neighborhood Empowerment. For a counterpoint, check out the DONEWatch article on this mess. 

The Takeaway 

First, a note. When my favorite Smoothie, Council President Herb Wesson is on a committee, you may be assured that it’s important. A former Chief of Staff to both Nate Holden in the City and Yvonne Burke in the County, Herb has proved a master at playing the Game even as he serves as the President of the City Council. With this in mind, I suspect that Ryu’s motion represents the limits of what the Council is likely to agree to as “reform.”  

While I am personally disappointed that they didn’t go further in their recommendations, I don’t have to deal with 15 Councilmember egos and an absentee Mayor who gets to appoint whomever he wants as Department Heads. When he’s in town. 

Why they don’t address the divisive and discriminatory Boundary Adjustment Policy of Jose Huizar is beyond me. DONE staff can’t handle half of the Neighborhood Councils they have, much less run around expending resources with these predetermined elections. Hell, they can’t even get their own elections right. 

So, let’s see what happens.


(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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